A friend recently asked me what I would eat at my last supper – she was in a melancholic mood that day!
If you knew me you would feel some sympathy at this point, because I just love all kinds of foods – that’s why when someone asks what’s my favourite food to cook, I really struggle to answer, as there’s so many dishes to choose from.
I pondered for a while over the options open to me as I prepared to meet my maker (sincerely hoping he was going to send me to a place full of chefs mentored by Ferran Adria et al) and it is at this point that my friend wished she’d never started on this tack.
Memories – It was then that I was transported back to my childhood summer holidays in the West Country. Days on the beach making sandcastles and crabbing, afternoons at a cream tea room piling homemade strawberry jam and luscious clotted cream onto freshly baked and buttered scones!
In the nineteenth century it was the West Country that started the cream tea trend, but the tradition of taking afternoon tea was said to be invented by the Duchess of Bedford in the 1840’s as a mid afternoon snack to put her on until dinner at 8pm.
In the 1980’s, during my time at catering college some friends and I took a trip to London, the main purpose of which was to eat! Top of our ‘to do’ list was afternoon tea at The Savoy – the only place I know where they keep replenishing the sandwiches and cakes, which for hungry students was a dream come true. In my head I worked back from the scones and cream so as to leave enough room for them!
In the mid ‘90’s I remember my first trip to the Caribbean vividly! Not for the joy of 2 weeks of guaranteed sunshine, Caribbean food and steel pan music, but for the miniature cream tea served at 3.30pm on the last leg of the journey! How British – how wonderful!
What started as a refreshing tea and a slice of cake has helterskeltered into a 3-tiered affair of dainty sandwiches, savouries, cakes and scones. Long may we embrace this wonderful way to spend an afternoon!